Source: Today (Singapore)
Source type: Newspaper
Published on: 05 Oct 2010
BRUSSELS - The biennial Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) has opened with both regions looking toward greater engagement for sustained economic recovery.
European leaders are seeking a heightened global role with Asia's emerging giants, while leaders from Asia have made a push for European financial institutions to facilitate the development of Asian capital markets.
The meeting this year comes at a time of a recovering global economy. Among the leaders gathered in Brussels, there is a sense of cautious optimism.
Just weeks away from the all important G-20 meeting in Seoul, leaders are seeking a consensus on a coordinated approach for sustained economic recovery.
European Council president and Asem 2010 chairman Herman Van Rompuy said: "The European Union is committed to be a stronger partner on the world's stage and a stronger partner for Asia. The EU needs to look East not only in words but also in facts."
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has pledged to promote and strengthen strategic links with the EU, and individual Asian economies have also followed suit.
Malaysia, for instance, is set to launch its free-trade talks with the EU on the sidelines of Asem, while South Korea is expected to sign its free trade agreement with the EU.
For Singapore, talks on an FTA with the European bloc are on the final straight after nine months, with another round of discussions expected next month.
The Republic has also pressed for the need to strengthen bank regulation and supervision in the long term.
Despite the exuberance and excesses of the past, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Hwee Hua said financial institutions still play a vital role in economic development.
Mrs Lim took over as head of the Singapore delegation after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cut short his trip to the Belgian city to attend to his mother's wake.
Beyond financial services, she said the focus must be on real economies and must take into account strong feelings on the ground, as seen in recent demonstrations in Europe over austerity measures.
This was a message she delivered at a meeting of business leaders: "Governments are under tremendous pressure to shore up growth, create jobs, improve livelihoods and, at the same time, to reduce budget deficits."
Mrs Lim said the hope is that governments will take the necessary measures to steer their economies toward long-term sustainable growth. That is, help workers make difficult and often painful adjustments as well as undertake structural reforms.